Monthly Archives: May 2009

Abu Ghraib abuse photos ‘show rape’ of women and children


“May the eyes of cowards never find rest in sleep” -Khalid Bin Al-Waleed

Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, it has emerged.


By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent and Paul Cruickshank 
Last Updated: 8:21AM BST 28 May 2009

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He has now confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The graphic nature of some of the images may explain the US President’s attempts to block the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan despite an earlier promise to allow them to be published.

Maj Gen Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision, adding: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.

“I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.

“The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

In April, Mr Obama’s administration said the photographs would be released and it would be “pointless to appeal” against a court judgment in favour of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

But after lobbying from senior military figures, Mr Obama changed his mind saying they could put the safety of troops at risk.

Earlier this month, he said: “The most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”

It was thought the images were similar to those leaked five years ago, which showed naked and bloody prisoners being intimidated by dogs, dragged around on a leash, piled into a human pyramid and hooded and attached to wires.

Mr Obama seemed to reinforce that view by adding: “I want to emphasise that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.”

The latest photographs relate to 400 cases of alleged abuse between 2001 and 2005 in Abu Ghraib and six other prisons. Mr Obama said the individuals involved had been “identified, and appropriate actions” taken.

Maj Gen Taguba’s internal inquiry into the abuse at Abu Ghraib, included sworn statements by 13 detainees, which, he said in the report, he found “credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses.”

Among the graphic statements, which were later released under US freedom of information laws, is that of Kasim Mehaddi Hilas in which he says: “I saw [name of a translator] ******* a kid, his age would be about 15 to 18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn’t covered and I saw [name] who was wearing the military uniform, putting his **** in the little kid’s ***…. and the female soldier was taking pictures.”

The translator was an American Egyptian who is now the subject of a civil court case in the US.

Three detainees, including the alleged victim, refer to the use of a phosphorescent tube in the sexual abuse and another to the use of wire, while the victim also refers to part of a policeman’s “stick” all of which were apparently photographed.

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Jurors can’t reach decision, ex-soldier gets life without parole

The sad, yet expected, outcome. Insha’Allah the ultimate justice will come soon.  
  • Former soldier who committed war crimes avoids death penalty
  • Steven Green raped, murdered 14-year-old; murdered her parents, 6-year-old sister
  • Defense argues military shares blame by sending “broken warrior” back into combat
  • Prosecution argues death penalty appropriate because crimes so horrific

PADUCAH, Kentucky (CNN) — Jurors on Thursday told a judge they could not reach a decision on whether a former U.S. soldier should be sentenced to death for war crimes — including rape and murder — he committed in Iraq.

The lack of a unanimous decision means Steven Green will be sentenced to life in prison without parole, according to instructions given to jurors as they began deliberations on the sentence Wednesday.

Green was convicted earlier this month of murder, rape, conspiracy and obstruction of justice in connection with a 2006 incident near Yusufiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad. Jurors decided he was guilty of raping a 14-year-old girl, then killing her and setting her body on fire to destroy evidence. He was also convicted of killing the girl’s parents and 6-year-old sister.

As jurors reported their inability to reach a decision, Green appeared to issue a sigh of relief and a small smile crossed his face. A member of his defense team, a paralegal, burst into sobs.

“We are obviously pleased with the penalty phase verdict, given the two choices available to the jury,” Green’s defense team said in a written statement. “However, there won’t be any celebrating tonight by the defense team. Mr. Green will spend the rest of his life in jail, and the events of March 12, 2006, have forever changed the lives of many. It is a tragic case on so many levels.”

During closing arguments to try to spare the life of Green, who was convicted of war crimes in Iraq, the defense argued that the U.S. military failed the former soldier, who was suffering from trauma.

“America does not kill its broken warriors,” federal defender Scott Wendelsdorf, his voice choked with emotion, told the jury Wednesday at the U.S. District Court in Kentucky.

Executing Green, Wendelsdorf said, would let the military “off the hook” and send the message that his superiors bear no responsibility for sending Green into combat, knowing he’d been traumatized by the deaths of several respected unit leaders.

But prosecutors seeking the death penalty told the jury Wednesday it was time to end the blame game.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Skaret said the soldiers in Green’s unit who died honorably “would be rolling over in their graves” if they knew their deaths were being used to explain why Green went on the murder rampage.

Skaret said that before the killings, Green and his four co-conspirators were talking about “sex” and “screwing Iraqi chicks” rather than avenging their colleagues’ deaths.

Four co-conspirators were tried in a military court. Two who testified for the prosecution are serving life sentences and will be eligible for parole in 10 years.

Green raped and killed a 14-year-old Iraqi girl after first murdering her parents and 6-year-old sister in their home, a short walk from a traffic checkpoint south of Baghdad where he was stationed.

He was on trial in a civilian court because he had been honorably discharged for a personality disorder before the crimes came to light.

In his defense, Wendelsdorf mentioned the testimony of psychiatric nurse practitioner Lt. Col. Karen Marrs. She interviewed Green in Iraq and said he exhibited characteristics that put him at risk for killing himself or others.

Green was not pulled from combat but instead was given sleeping pills and returned to his checkpoint. Defense lawyers said the army knew Green was suffering psychologically and chose to ignore it rather than give him the mental health care he needed.

Green’s lawyer called the crime “horrific” and acknowledged, “No one is responsible for the death of the al-Janabi family but Steven Green.”

Wendelsdorf said although the mitigating factors — including Green’s troubled upbringing — do not excuse the crime, they should “help determine what the punishment should be.”

But, the premeditated murders of Mr. and Mrs. al-Janabi and their two daughters were so horrific that those factors could not mitigate the crimes, Skaret said. 

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Muhammad AlShareef – Anger Management


Click here for lecture


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Irish church knew abuse ‘endemic’


An inquiry into child abuse at Catholic institutions in Ireland has found church leaders knew that sexual abuse was “endemic” in boys’ institutions.

It also found physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of institutions.

Schools were run “in a severe, regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and even on staff”.

The nine-year inquiry investigated a 60-year period.

About 35,000 children were placed in a network of reformatories, industrial schools and workhouses up to the 1980s.

More than 2,000 told the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse they suffered physical and sexual abuse while there.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, said he was “profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed that children suffered in such awful ways in these institutions”.

“This report makes it clear that great wrong and hurt were caused to some of the most vulnerable children in our society,” he said.

“It documents a shameful catalogue of cruelty: neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, perpetrated against children.”

The five-volume study concluded that church officials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded their orders’ paedophiles from arrest amid a “culture of self-serving secrecy”.

It also found that government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.

The findings will not be used for criminal prosecutions – in part because the Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report.

No real names, whether of victims or perpetrators, appear in the final document.

Police were called to the commission’s news conference amid angry scenes as victims were prevented from attending.

One of the many victims, John Walsh of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, said the absence of prosecutions had left him feeling “cheated and deceived”.

“I would have never opened my wounds if I’d known this was going to be the end result,” he said.

“It has devastated me and will devastate most victims because there are no criminal proceedings and no accountability whatsoever.”

More allegations were made against the Christian Brothers than the other male orders combined.

The report found child safety was not a priority for the Christian Brothers who ran the institutions, the order was defensive in its response to complaints and failed to accept any congregational responsibility for abuse.

Ritual beatings

The report said that girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said those who perpetrated violence and abuse should be held to account, “no matter how long ago it happened”.

“Every time there is a single incident of abuse in the Catholic Church, it is a scandal. I would be very worried if it wasn’t a scandal… I hope these things don’t happen again, but I hope they’re never a matter of indifference,” he said.

The commission said overwhelming, consistent testimony from still-traumatized men and women, now in their 50s to 80s, had demonstrated beyond a doubt that the entire system treated children more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential.

“The reformatory and industrial schools depended on rigid control by means of severe corporal punishment and the fear of such punishment,” it said.

“The harshness of the regime was inculcated into the culture of the schools by successive generations of brothers, priests and nuns.

“It was systemic and not the result of individual breaches by persons who operated outside lawful and acceptable boundaries.

“Excesses of punishment generated the fear that the school authorities believed to be essential for the maintenance of order.”

The report proposed 21 ways the government could recognise past wrongs, including building a permanent memorial, providing counselling and education to victims, and improving Ireland’s current child protection services.

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Marriage in Islam II


Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “Among my followers the best of men are those who are best to their wives, and the best of women are those who are best to their husbands. To each of such women is set down a reward equivalent to the reward of a thousand martyrs. Among my followers, again, the best of women are those who assist their husbands in their work, and love them dearly for everything, save what is a transgression of God’s laws.”

Shahina Siddiqui

“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect” (Quran 30:21).

“O Humans revere your Guardian Lord, Who created you from a single person created of like nature its mate, and from this scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah through Whom you claim your mutual rights” (Quran 4:1).

The above verses of the Quran lay out the framework as to what are the basis, the objectives and the goal of marriage in Islam. In the ultimate Wisdom of Allah we are first told that both partners man and woman are created from the same source. That this should be paid attention to as it is one of His signs.

The fact that we come from the same soul signifies our equality as humans, when the essence of our creation is the same, the argument of who is better or greater is redundant. To stress on this fact and then to talk about marriage in the same verse is of great significance for those of us who are in the field of marriage counseling.

The shift in this attitude of equality of genders as human beings cause a imbalance in marital relation ship that leads to dysfunctional marriage. When ever one party considers themselves superior or above the law there is a shift in the balance of power that may lead to misuse or abuse of power as the less valuable partner is seen as an easy prey. Many marital difficulties are based on or caused by control and rule stratagem.

By stressing on the equality of all humans men or women and making it the basis of marriage, Allah in His infinite wisdom has laid the ground rules for establishing peace, as well as the assigning of different roles to husband and wife as functional strategy rather than a question of competence as humans.

Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has stated that: “men and women are twin halves of each other” (Bukhari). This Hadith also brings home the fact that men and women are created from single source. Furthermore, by using the analogy of twin half the Prophet has underlined the reciprocal nature and the interdependent nature of men and women’s relationship.

The objective and the goal of marriage in Islam according to the above Quranic verse is to enable us to dwell in peace and tranquility. It is important for us to reflect on these words and their significance in the Islamic frame of reference.

In order to have peace certain condition must be met. These prerequisites to peace are Justice, Fairness, Equity, Equality, and fulfillment of mutual rights. Therefore any injustice whether it is oppression, or persecution, cannot be tolerated if there is to be peace in Muslim homes.

In the domestic realm oppression is manifested when the process of Shura (consultation) is compromised, neglected or ignored. When one partner (in most cases the husband) makes unilateral decisions and applies dictatorial style of leadership, peace is compromised. Persecution is present when there is any form of domestic abuse being perpetrated.

Tranquility on the other hand is a state of being which is achieved when peace has been established. Tranquility is compromised when there is tension, stress and anger. It is a mistake to take tranquility to mean perpetual state of bliss. Since being Muslims does not make us immune to tragedies and catastrophes.

In fact Allah tells us in the Quran that we will be tried (2:155,57). What a state of tranquility does is to empower us to handle life’s difficult moments with our spouses as obedient servants of Allah. Allah in His infinite Mercy also provides us with the tools by which we can achieve this state of peace and tranquility.

The second principle besides Shura on which the Islamic family life is based is Mercy (Rehma), and in this verse Allah is telling us that He has placed mercy between spouses. We are therefore inclined by our very nature to have mercy for our spouses. Mercy is manifested through compassion, forgiveness, caring and humility.

It is obvious that these are all ingredients that make for a successful partnership. Marriage in Islam is above all a partnership based on equality of partners and specification of roles. Lack of mercy in a marriage or a family renders it in Islamic terms dysfunctional.

Allah further states that He has also placed in addition to mercy, love between spouses. It should however be noted that Islamic concept of love is different from the more commonly understood romantic love so valued in the Western cultures.

The basic difference is that love between man and woman in the Islamic context can only be realized and expressed in a legal marriage. In order to develop a healthy avenue for the expression of love between man and woman and to provide security so that such a loving relationship can flourish, it is necessary to give it the protection of Shariah (Islamic law).

Marital love in Islam inculcates the following:

Faith: The love Muslim spouses have for each other is for the sake of Allah that is to gain His pleasure. It is from Allah that we claim our mutual rights (Quran 4:1) and it is to Allah that we are accountable for our behavior as husbands and wives.

It sustains: Love is not to consume but to sustain. Allah expresses His love for us by providing sustenance. To love in Islam is to sustain our loved one physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, to the best of our ability (to sustain materially is the husbands duty, however if the wife wishes she can also contribute)

Accepts: To love someone is to accept them for who they are. It is selfishness to try and mould someone as we wish them to be. True love does not attempt to crush individuality or control personal differences, but is magnanimous and secure to accommodate differences.

Challenges: Love challenges us to be all we can, it encourages us to tap into our talents and takes pride in our achievements. To enable our loved one to realize their potential is the most rewarding experience.

Merciful: Mercy compels us to love and love compels us to have mercy. In the Islamic context the two are synonymous. The attribute Allah chose to be the supreme for Himself is that He is the most Merciful. This attribute of Rehman (the Merciful) is mentioned 170 times in the Quran, bringing home the significance for believers to be merciful. Mercy in practical application means to have and show compassion and to be charitable.

Forgiving: Love is never too proud to seek forgiveness or too stingy to forgive. It is willing to let go of hurt and letdowns. Forgiveness allows us the opportunity to improve and correct our selves.

Respect: To love is to respect and value the person their contributions and their opinions. Respect does not allow us to take for granted our loved ones or to ignore their input. How we interact with our spouses reflects whether we respect them or not.

Confidentiality: Trust is the most essential ingredient of love. When trust is betrayed and confidentiality compromised, love loses its soul.

Caring: Love fosters a deep fondness that dictates caring and sharing in all that we do. The needs of our loved ones take precedence over our own.

Kindness: The Seerah (biography) of our beloved Prophet is rich with examples of acts of kindness, he showed towards his family and particularly his wives. Even when his patience was tried, he was never unkind in word or deed. To love is to be kind.

Grows: Marital love is not static it grows and flourishes with each day of marital life. It requires work and commitment, and is nourished through faith when we are thankful and appreciative of Allah blessings.

Enhances: Love enhances our image and beautifies our world. It provides emotional security and physical well being.

Selflessness: Love gives unconditionally and protects dutifully.

Truthful: Love is honesty without cruelty and loyalty without compromise.

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Mothers’ talk is key to kids’ social skills, study says


  • Study followed 57 families as children grew from 3 to 12 years
  • The effect of social skills was strong until age 9, weaker from ages 10 to 12
  • Researchers are now interested in what effect training would have
  • Expert: Labeling child’s feelings, as well as others’, is important

(CNN) — Mothers often get blamed for the way their children turn out, and a new study gives additional weight to that accusation.

Research from the United Kingdom shows that the way mothers talk to their children at a young age influences their social skills later in childhood.

The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, found that children whose mothers often talked to them about people’s feelings, beliefs, wants and intentions developed better social understanding than children whose mothers did not.

In the first part of the study, mothers were asked to talk to their 3-year-old children about a series of pictures depicting scenes such as a child coming out of school looking happy and people waiting in line. Children whose mothers talked about the mental state of characters in the picture tended to perform better on social understanding tasks, the researchers found.

The effect persisted when the researchers revisited the families — 57 of them remained in the study until the end — on an almost yearly basis. The authors controlled for socioeconomic status and IQ of the mothers and found that these factors were not as relevant.

“You can predict even from when the children are 3 or 4 what their social understanding will be like when they’re 8 or 9,” said Nicola Yuill, lead author and senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex in England.

This effect becomes weaker from ages 10 to 12, perhaps because as children get older, they spend less time at home, and their peers and teachers influence them more, she said.

The 12-year-olds, however, generally did as well as their mothers on social understanding tasks, indicating that children at this age can be as “socially sophisticated” as adults, the authors said.

For one test of social understanding, children 8 and older watched clips of the British television series “The Office” and were prompted to answer questions about the situations: for example, the way the main character, David Brent, embarrasses people without realizing it. Children also judged other people’s feelings from pictures and explained what they would do in hypothetical situations involving other people’s feelings.

“The communication of empathy is just about the most important thing you can do,” said Nancy Weisman, a psychologist in Marietta, Georgia, who was not involved with the study. “Every single moment of the day, you have situations in which you can teach this.”

Yuill and colleagues are interested in training parents to use these talking skills and seeing what effect that has. For example, they may show videotapes modeling the way mothers communicate “mental state” talk to children.

When they began the study 14 years ago, researchers focused on mothers because it was difficult to find fathers who spent as much time at home with their young children. It may be easier to find fathers to participate today, Yuill said.

Weisman recommends to her patients that they use opportunities such as television shows and movies to talk to children about what the characters may be feeling as a result of the actions on screen. If someone is yelling at the supermarket, this is another chance to talk to a child about other people’s feelings, she said.

It’s essential for both mothers and fathers to give children a vocabulary of feelings, said Dawn Huebner, a psychologist in Exeter, New Hampshire, who sees children ages 6 to 12. Children don’t always realize what their emotions are and need to have words to describe them in order to become more empathetic, she said.

Labeling other people’s feelings is also important, Huebner said.

“Let’s say a young child grabs a toy away from another young child. It’s helpful for parents to say something like, ‘That makes him sad when you take it,’ ” rather than saying ‘don’t grab’ or ‘stop it,'” Huebner said.

But social understanding does not guarantee good behavior, the authors said. Children who showed the most sophisticated social skills in this study also behaved the most negatively toward their mothers in the team task of steering a model car around a race track. This suggests that social understanding isn’t everything and must be used in beneficial ways, Yuill said.

This negative behavior probably came about because if children feel that they can label their feelings, they’re more comfortable expressing a wide range of emotions, said Laurie Zelinger, a licensed psychologist in Cedarhurst, New York, who was not involved with the study. 

The finding underscores the need to not only talk about feelings and mental states but to also indicate to children how to deal with those feelings, she said.

“It would be up to the parent to set some structure and some boundaries, to say, ‘No, you can’t hurt me,’ but it’s also a teachable moment,” she said. “When you feel angry, you feel like banging into things, you feel like running your car over mine, but you can’t hurt me.” 

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Former fundamentalist ‘debunks’ Bible


  • Meet a real-life “Angels & Demons” professor
  • Biblical scholar says most of New Testament is a forgery
  • Scholar’s work gains audience skeptical of church
  • Scholar’s mom no longer talks to him about his books

CNN — Just so you know, Bart Ehrman says he’s not the anti-Christ.

He says he’s not trying to destroy your faith. He’s not trying to bash the Bible. And, though his mother no longer talks to him about religion, Ehrman says some of his best friends are Christian.

Ehrman, a best-selling author and a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a biblical sleuth whose investigations make some people very angry. Like the fictional Robert Langdon character played by actor Tom Hanks in the movie “Angels & Demons,” he delves into the past to challenge some of Christianity’s central claims.

In Ehrman’s latest book, “Jesus, Interrupted,” he concludes:

Doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus and heaven and hell are not based on anything Jesus or his earlier followers said.

At least 19 of the 27 books in the New Testament are forgeries.

Believing the Bible is infallible is not a condition for being a Christian.

“Christianity has never been about the Bible being the inerrant word of God,” Ehrman says. “Christianity is about the belief in Christ.”

Critic: ‘There’s a touch of arrogance’ about him

Ehrman’s claims have found an audience, and controversy. He’s a fixture on History Channel and Discovery Channel documentaries on Christianity. He’s appeared on National Public Radio, CNN and the BBC and talked about scribes misquoting Jesus on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Yet Ehrman’s popularity also may be due to a larger trend. The books of people like Elaine Pagels, author of “The Gnostic Gospels,” and Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons,” resonate with people who believe there are parts of the Bible that the church left on history’s editing floor.

Some scholarly critics say Ehrman is saying nothing new.

Bishop William H. Willimon, an author and United Methodist Church bishop based in Alabama, says he doesn’t like the “breathless tone” of Ehrman’s work.

“He keeps presenting this stuff as if this is wonderful new knowledge that has been kept from you backward lay people and this is the stuff your preachers don’t have the guts to tell, and I have,” Willimon says. “There’s a touch of arrogance in it.”

Yet even many of Ehrman’s critics say he has a knack for making arcane New Testament scholarship accessible to the public.

“He has a gift for clear thinking and an ability to present some complicated things in simple, direct ways,” Willimon says.

Some pastors also say that Ehrman forces them to confront tough questions about the Bible in front of their congregations.

“His take on the scriptures is a gift to the church because of his ability to articulate questions and challenges,” says Rev. Guy Williams, a blogger who also happens to be a Methodist minister in Houston, Texas. “It gives us an opportunity to wrestle with the [Bible’s] claims and questions.”

Ehrman: There was no resurrection

Ehrman says that no one accepts everything in the Bible. Everyone picks and chooses . He cites some New Testament’s references to the role of women in church as an example.

In the first book of Corinthians, Ehrman says, the Apostle Paul insists that women should remain silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:35-36).

In the 16th chapter of the book of Romans, Paul’s attitude is that women could and should be church leaders — and he cites women who were serving as deacons and apostles in the early church, Ehrman says.

Ehrman backs his arguments with a deep knowledge of the culture and history of the New Testament world. He’s written 20 books on early Christianity and is an authority on ancient manuscripts used to translate the Bible.

His claims, though, take on some of Christianity’s most sacred tenets, like the resurrection of Jesus. Ehrman says he doesn’t think the resurrection took place. There’s no proof Jesus physically rose from the dead, and the resurrection stories contradict one another, he says.

He says he doesn’t believe the followers of Jesus saw their master bodily rise from the dead, but something else.

“My best guess is that what happened is what commonly happens today when someone has a loved one die — they sometimes think they see them in a vision,” Ehrman says. “I think some of the disciples had visions.”

Ehrman says he immerses himself in the Bible, though he doesn’t believe in its infallibility, because it’s the most important book in Western civilization.

“I have friends who teach medieval English,” he says. “They don’t believe in Chaucer, but they think Chaucer is important,” he writes in the conclusion of “Jesus, Interrupted.”

The fundamentalist turns agnostic

Ehrman once had a different attitude toward the Bible.

He was raised in the Episcopal Church in Lawrence, Kansas, and became a fundamentalist Christian at age 15 when he met a charismatic Christian youth group leader who reached out to him. Ehrman says he later persuaded his parents to embrace a more conservative brand of Christianity.

He says he became so devoted to the Bible that he memorized entire sections. He was convinced the Bible was “God’s words.”

But Ehrman says he began to develop doubts about the infallibility of the Bible after attending Princeton Theological Seminary to become a college Bible professor.

He even began to change his opinion of the Christian youth group leader who helped convert him. The youth leader visited Ehrman’s father when he was dying of cancer in a hospital.

The youth leader used a bottle of hotel shampoo to “anoint” his father, and tried to persuade his father to confess specific sins, Ehrman says. Ehrman says he was angry at the minister for acting “self-righteous” and “hypocritical.”

“For a vulnerable high-schooler who is trying to figure out the world, a personality like that is very attractive,” Ehrman says. “They’re like cult leaders. They have all the answers.”

Ehrman says he later became an agnostic because he couldn’t find the answer to another question: How could there be a God when there is so much suffering in the world? An agnostic is one who disclaims any knowledge of God, but does not deny the possibility of God’s existence.

Today, Ehrman describes himself as a “happy agnostic.”

But some people can’t believe an agnostic can be happy, he says. They tell him that they’re praying for him. Others say worse. They say he’s being fooled by Satan and he’s headed to hell. Some say he’s the anti-Christ.

“I’m not that powerful,” he says, laughing.

His family, however, feels no obligation to talk to Ehrman about his ideas on the Bible, Ehrman says. His mother, brother and sister remain conservative Christians.

He once tried to talk to his mother about his new beliefs, but the discussion proved fruitless.

“My mom is a strong evangelical,” Ehrman says. “We talk basketball. We don’t talk religion.”

Still, Ehrman says he still sends his mother and siblings copies of his latest books. They’ve never responded, he says.

“I imagine they’re hidden in a back room,” he says.

Whether it’s his family, critics or students, Ehrman says he has a better handle on why he is so threatening to so many people — some Christians worry they will make the same decision he has.

“I changed my mind,” he says. “My students find me more dangerous that way. I really do know what they’re talking about when they stake out an evangelical position.” 

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